“ The Royal College of Surgeons of England is an independent professional body committed to promoting and advancing the highest standards of surgical care for patients, regulating surgery, including dentistry, in England and Wales. The College is located at Lincoln's Inn Fields in London. In 1799 the government purchased the collection of John Hunter which they presented to the College. This formed the basis of the Hunterian Collection, which has since been supplemented by others including an Odontological Collection and the natural history collections of Richard Owen. Many specimens were destroyed by the 1941 bomb. As well as the Hunterian Museum, the College houses the Wellcome Museum of Anatomy and Pathology. The College museums reopened in February 2005 after a major refurbishment. The Hunterian Museum is open to the public without charge, but the Wellcome Museum is only open to medical practitioners and students. There is another and better known institution called the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow. It was founded out of a bequest by John Hunter's brother William. „
The Hunterian Museum in London contains exhibits assembled by surgeon and anatomist, John Hunter. The collection of over 3500 objects includes a range of oddities such as bottled organs, tumours, skeletal parts and animals.
The museum is part of the Royal College of Surgeons and entry is free. It is handily located in Lincoln's Inn Fields, close to both Holborn and Chancery Lane underground station.
The museum is fairly small, with the downstairs focussing on anatomy and the upstairs concentrating more on medical procedures and instruments. The information given about each specimen is very clear and precise stating what it is and where it is from, rather than huge chunks of writing that are tiresome to read. It is very interesting and informative.
Although the idea of gawping at bottled foetuses does not sound too appealing, it isn't set in a grotesque manner. Each exhibit is displayed artfully, purely to gain scientific knowledge, rather than to make you feel squeamish.
This is a must-see for those interested in biology or collections of oddities. As one of the smaller, less well-known museums, you can see and learn a huge amount. I would definitely recommend this museum, although probably not the most suitable for young children.
The Hunterian Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons of England is one of the great but little known museums of London. John Hunter was the archetypal self-taught gentleman-scientist-surgeon of the eighteenth century, whose collection was purchased by the government for the then vast sum of fifteen thousand pounds in 1799.
Hunter, as befitted a gentleman of the enlightenment, collected fine art and antiques and well as medical specimens. Sadly, much was lost when the museum was bombed during the Second World War. What remains has an appropriately scientific emphasis: arguably it was Hunter more than anyone who made surgery into a science and understandable surgeons made much of him. What had started as a trade guild - like the butchers and wax chandlers - evolved into a college of learning built on the scientific foundations that he pioneered.
Hunter famously said "Why think? Try the experiment" and the collection includes some of his most famous experiments, such as chicken bones implanted with lead shot, to show that they grow from the ends rather than the middle, and the epididymis of a boar, injected with mercury and painstakingly unravelled.
Other famous specimens include the Irish Giant, Charles Byrne, who feared dissection and left instructions to be buried at sea, but whose corpse Hunter purchased from the boatmen; Caroline Crachami, the "Sicilian Fairy" sometimes cited as the smallest person in history; and the two-headed boy of Bengal, a rare case of a craniopagus conjoined twin, who was killed by a snake bite.
Recently re-vamped, the modern glass cases make their anatomical contents appear surprisingly beautiful. There are many zoological specimens and examples of morbid anatomy: normal anatomy is displayed in a separate museum for members of the medical profession only.
The Hunterian museum could well be the finest medical museum in England, and is generally uncrowded. The splendid classical premises of the College of Surgeons are close by Lincoln's Inn (an historic Inn of Court) and Sir John Soane's museum, and the area is an excellent alternative to the standard London tourist attractions if planning a day out. As it is situated in an area where lawyers congregate, there are plenty of places to eat and drink nearby.
The museum is only open when the college is open (i.e. not weekends) and it is worth telephoning in advance or checking the website, as even surgeons have holidays. From time to time there are public lectures that are usually well worth attending (book in advance).
A visit to this excellent museum will certainly be a unique day out. Located inside the Royal College of Surgeons, the Hunterian holds the anatomical specimens collected by John Hunter and those who followed in his footsteps. It is must-see for anyone in the medical profession (as well as artists interested in anatomy). But the museum will also intrigue the curious run-of-the-mill tourist (as indeed I was). A word of warning, however - depending on your sensitivities, you may be troubled by some the things you will see. Aside from the various preserved organs (which certainly make you aware of quite what incredible but fragile creation we humans really are) there are specimens of various unusual medical conditions. These include the skeleton of Charles Byrne, the "Irish Giant"; a skeleton of a person who suffered froma disease which fused some of their bones together; as well as preserved tumours et cetera. Along with these 'oddities' there are extensive specimens showing the function of the various systems of the body: digestive, circulatory, respiratory, endocrine, reproductive and nervous. The whole museum is extremely well curated and introduced by a series of extremely informative panels detailing the historical importance of Hunter and his quite groundbreaking work. The museum has, since its foundation, been an important resource for surgeons. To gain access to the museum, one must first register at the front desk of the RCS to be given a vistors pass. Turn left up the impressive staircase which leads to the Museum. Admission is free - further incentive to experience this enlightening undiscovered treasure. Whether you are looking for an intellectual day out or are looking for a place that is educational but the kids will enjoy, I recommend the Hunterian and its interesting although unusual collection.